Recently elected to another term as chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County Circuit Judge Ann Callis relishes going to the bench during jury weeks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with new jurors.
"Although it is ceremonial, every time I say those words and look at the American flag, I am reminded of the importance of being a public servant, and I am humbled by the opportunity that I was given to be chief judge," she said.
In May, Callis was elected by the court's fellow circuit judges to serve another two years in the administrative role of chief.
This week she reflected on her past accomplishments and future goals.
"I thought that given two more years, more programs and initiatives could be implemented by our circuit and associate judges, (ones) that could better serve the public in Madison County," Callis said.
As her chief judge tenure began in May 2006, Callis immediately instituted reforms aimed at restoring public confidence in a court once labeled the nation's top "Judicial Hellhole." Her first order of business was to impose limits on "judge shopping," documents filed under seal and cases that didn't belong in Madison County.
When asked what kind of feedback she received among peers across the state, the local bar and citizens, for the reforms she instituted, Callis responded, "I have received extremely favorable feedback..."
In the coming years, Callis said she'd like to work with local bar associations on initiatives related to professionalism, and possibly create an ombudsman and mentoring program.
"We, as judges, are also exploring a possible expansion with the Veteran's Assistance Program in Madison County, and partnering with SIU-E to further enhance judicial effectiveness in reaching pro se litigants, and juveniles," she said.
Callis punted on hot topics currently being debated in state legal circles.
When asked what position she takes, pro or con, regarding a referendum for a constitutional convention that will appear on the ballot in November, she answered, "I will, of course, follow any law or amendment that is passed."
On the question of selecting judges based on a merit system, versus the present form of partisan elections, Callis said, "If such a system is implemented, I would follow it."
Callis, who was retained by voters in 2006 for a second six-year term as circuit judge, declined to speculate on what job she'd like in the future.
"I am focused on serving the people of Madison County as chief judge and circuit judge," she said. "My ambition currently is to initiate further programs that would better serve the people of Madison County."
Callis was also asked to comment on how the economy might be affecting the number or types of lawsuits being filed in Madison County.
"I believe the economy has increased the number of foreclosures that are filed in Madison County," she said. "I believe there is an increase in pro se litigants across the board. Thus, one reason why we are working on initiatives to better serve these litigants."
In response to a softball question, "What do the Cardinals need to do to win the Division?" Callis replied, "Not a clue."